Wind turbines’ impact on birds and caribou highlighted; Sabina states proposal can cut fossil fuel emissions at mine project in half
Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.’s proposal to add a renewable energy centre to power its Back River mining project has led the Nunavut Impact River Board to reconsider the project’s licensing terms.
The review board indicated its decision to reconsider the terms of operation is because of public concerns expressed over potential environmental effects from the energy centre.
Formally called the Back River Project Energy Centre, it was first proposed by Sabina on Sept. 20.
The proposal calls for construction of 13 wind turbines, one array of solar panels, and a battery storage system that could provide up to 50 megawatts of power.
It would power the Back River gold project, which includes Goose Mine, located in Back River Gold District in the Kitikmeot region about 75 kilometres south of Bathurst Inlet.
Sabina has said the Goose gold mine, which is part of the Back River project, will be the first mine to start producing, likely in early 2025.
In its proposal to the review board, Sabina stated that if the renewable energy centre is approved it would reduce fossil fuel consumption at the Back River project by 50 per cent.
That would lead to approximately 700 fewer trips per year by trucks delivering fuel, it said.
In comments the review board sought for Sabina’s proposal, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association and the governments of Nunavut and Canada all stated they had concerns, adding the new expansion goes beyond the original terms and conditions of operation agreed to for the Back River Project.
For its comments, the GN hired GEI Consultants to study and provide a report, while the KIA hired Zoetica Environmental Consulting Services Ltd. to do the same.
Both reports noted concerns about bird deaths and interrupted caribou migration patterns as a result of the wind turbines operating.
The GN’s report also called for a better outline of the location of the wind turbines’ wiring on the land.
In its comments, the federal government agreed the proposed energy centre warrants a more in-depth analysis.
“Sabina is proposing activities, which are not included in Sabina’s original Back River Project Certificate or its 2020 Modification Package,” Adrian Paradis, a senior project manager with the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency said in the federal government report.
It also noted Sabina stated in public presentations that the Back River Project Energy Centre would be owned and operated by a different company, which would sell the power created to Sabina.
The involvement of the second company, and how that relates to factors such as enforcement of environmental regulations, should be studied, Paradis said.
Sabina’s vice-president of communications and corporate secretary, Nicole Hoeller, stated the company welcomes the engagement of the review board, government and organizations in reviewing the Back River Project Energy Centre proposal.
She said Sabina brought the proposal forward to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to help the company’s efforts to “construct and operate the Back River project in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.”
Review board executive director Karen Costello told Nunatsiaq News in July that a typical reconsideration process can take six to nine months to complete.
Once the board finishes its assessment and presents its new terms and conditions for a mine, federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal will have 45 days to approve, change or reject the report’s recommendations.